Detroit Red Wings: 7 Things to Watch For in the 2013 Offseason
It was a tale of two seasons for the Red Wings. They began the season struggling to find consistency and suffered a bunch of injuries.
They ended their season flying into the postseason and proving to the hockey world why they were still one of the best teams in the NHL. Having made the postseason for 22 consecutive sesons, the Red Wings were looking to make some noise and win their 12th Stanley Cup in franchise history.
While the quest for the Cup fell short last Wednesday against the Chicago Blackhawks, a lot of positives and some glaring negatives will dictate the outcome of the offseason plans for GM Ken Holland.
Without his trusty partner-in-crime in Jim Nill to help craft out a game plan, Holland will be under more scrutiny with now another colleague gone to pursue the general manager role.
But the work Nill has done with the Red Wings prospects and the ample cap room has allowed for a very creative off season for Ken Holland.
Here are seven things that you need to watch for as a new era of Red Wings hockey begins.
What Pending Free Agents Will Come Back?
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This year's crop of free agents will be demanding a hefty pay raise and will also consist of a tangible amount of Detroit's youth.
Among the notable free agents is Damien Brunner and Valtteri Filppula. These two players will command the most salary for the Red Wings. With the team's current cap flexibility, it seems likely that only one of them will be kept.
Brunner's first season in the NHL proved to be a successful one. He had 26 points in 44 games but most importantly he learned how to adapt to the smaller ice sheet and North American style of play.
Filppula is the better defender of the two but his offense can be suspect at times. He also suffered a high ankle sprain in the Game 7 loss against the Hawks and his status to start the season could be in jeopardy.
Detroit's restricted free agents are Joakim Andersson, Gustav Nyquist, Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith. They are expected to be brought back and contribute next season in a bigger role.
Will Tomas Tatar Finally Crack an NHL Roster?
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Next year, Tomas Tatar should be expected to suit up for the Red Wings on their third line.
The 22-year-old Slovakian has spent the past four seasons with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League, and has adjusted very well to the North American game since being drafted 60th overall in 2009.
While Tatar has been ready for the past few seasons to play in the NHL, a crowded lineup in front of him has left him in GR. But Tatar has embraced that change, being near the top of the list in scoring every year with the Griffins.
After a slew of injuries to start out the 2012-13 season, he finally got the chance to play again in the NHL. He previously played in the 2010-11 season for nine games before being sent down.
Tatar had seven points in 18 games this go around. But his speed and tenacity convinced many that he was ready to play full-time with the big club. And that will be good news for the Red Wings who will plan on using his scoring ability and skill.
Ken Holland's Use of the Buyout Clause
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For the 2013-14 season, all NHL general managers will have the option of buying out the contracts of two players.
This option can give some teams much-needed flexibility with the salary cap. It can be expected that many notable names with large contracts will be available on the open market.
Some teams might try to align themselves for those anticipated players to be bought out. One of those GMs might be Ken Holland. This can happen because Holland has the luxury of using his two buyouts and limited cap space after Howard's extension may prompt him to do so.
If Holland were able to buy out two players' contracts, expect him to cut a check to Mikael Samuelsson and Kyle Quincey.
Todd Bertuzzi is another option, but he could retire with one year remaining on his deal, which would save the Red Wings $2 million in 2013-14.
With almost $11 million in cap space freed up before the re-signings, buying out Samuelsson and Quincey would push the team's spending budget up near $17 million in a weak free-agent class.
There is a young nucleus and the need to get better and it seems likely that Holland will use this buyout option to make a tangible shakeup on the roster.
Potential Free-Agent Targets for the Red Wings
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This is not the year that the Red Wings should try to pursue the free-agent market with an assertive edge.
With no true superstar headlining the free-agent group, it is expected that teams will look to add depth and role players this offseason instead of stocking up on premier talent.
Part of that problem is the way the Collective Bargaining Agreement is structured to allow teams to hold onto their stars for longer.
For the Red Wings, they will most likely try to make some splashes in free agency but the price for these players will be overpriced.
Detroit needs a few more scorers up front, most importantly on the wing. A few 20-goal scorers will be available in Clarke MacArthur and David Clarkson. Veterans like Teemu Selanne and Jaromir Jagr may be available if they decide to play one last season and continue to push towards breaking records.
Other options like Mason Raymond, Ryane Clowe, Bryan Bickell, Tyler Bozak, Dustin Penner and Nathan Horton would also be candidates to sign with Detroit in the offseason.
Prospects That Could Make the Opening Night Roster
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For the Detroit Red Wings it might not be likely that many prospects will debut next season.
On opening night you can expect a few new faces, but these are likely faces brought in via free agency and possible trades.
Detroit has a few prospects, however, who have a chance to ultimately play some games in the NHL in 2013-14.
Other than Tomas Tatar, the most likely of the bunch is Calle Jarnkrok. He spent nine games with the Griffins this season to better acclimate himself to the professional level.
It is expected that Jarnkrok will indeed spend next season in North America. He could, however, have the opportunity to make the roster during the season.
Another convincing prospect to watch out for is Tomas Jurco.
The former Memorial Cup champion with the Saint John Sea Dogs struggled mightily to begin his first season in Grand Rapids. He has picked up the pace in the playoffs, scoring nine points (4 G, 5 A) in 14 total games.
Keep an eye out for one of Detroit's defensive prospects to get a chance to play on a tryout. Ryan Sproul or Xavier Ouellet seem the most likely here but only Sproul has spent any time with GR and may still need a year of seasoning in the AHL before cracking the roster.
NHL Draft and Who the Red Wings Could Select
Max Domi at CHL Top Prospects Game in White #8
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A loss in the Western Conference semis against Chicago will give the Red Wings the 18th overall pick in the NHL draft held in New Jersey on June 30.
This is a draft class that has the potential to produce several NHL All-Stars and superstars, much like the drafts from 2003 to 2006.
A draft like this will bode well with a team who already has several top-notch prospects who are a few years away from NHL action.
With the 18th overall pick, expect the Red Wings to draft a skilled winger, a two-way center or a complementary piece who could play right away with Datsyuk or Zetterberg.
Names here could be Max Domi, Bo Horvat, Kerby Rychel, Ryan Hartman and Anthony Mantha. Other than Seth Jones the defensive crop does not seem intriguing or has multiple guys who will be a cornerstone like Nicklas Lidstrom.
Or the pick could be traded on draft day to try and trade up and also move some cap space. Detroit has the prospects to complete a trade and even create some leverage and move up into the top 15, a draft spot rarely seen by the Red Wings the last two decades.
Other Headlines to Look for in the 2013 Offseason
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A very intriguing headline will be how the prospect systems and development will change without the guiding presence of Jim Nill.
He will be focusing on preparing the draft strategy and a new system in Dallas while Holland will have to go forward without him. Luckily the team is still well equipped with the best scouts in the NHL who are able to find late-round gems.
Look forward to the schedule coming out towards the end of the summer. It will be interesting to see where the Red Wings will start their season and how the new balanced schedule will benefit their time in the Western Conference.
Finally, it will be interesting to see if the team will officially announce when Nicklas Lidstrom's No. 5 will be raised to the rafters of the Joe Louis Arena.